Running a Dating Site – First Impressions
By Lisa Lue
The online dating industry is bigger than you think and more lucrative than you can imagine. Naturally, this means it’s also very competitive. Big players invest heavily to get the most return. Anything that can help to put your business a little bit ahead of the next on-line dating site is, therefore, a valuable commodity. In this article, I want to tell you about some small changes you can easily incorporate that may have a significant effect on your online dating business.
You know that idiom “the devil is in the detail”? It means that small things in plans or schemes that may be overlooked could cause you bigger problems later on. Now, I’m not one to get caught up in details or death by planning; the big picture is always the best point of view but we do need to have a good quality canvas on which to paint our big picture. Alternatively, think of it as a kind of Feng Shui thing.
Getting these little things right gives a visitor a conscious and/or subconscious perception of you and your website. Quite often, something visual just doesn’t flow properly, is out-of-place, or there is a gut feeling something isn’t right. You’ve probably had this feeling yourself about sites you have visited. Perhaps it has been more obvious; you find dodging pop-ups and sneaky advert placement an assault on your intelligence, and quickly leave. The site owner seems to be more interested in getting you to click an advert than giving you quality content. Short term thinking, poor quality site.
Spelling and Grammar
Two of the things that can put people off when visiting a website are spelling and English grammar errors. A simple mistake can cause the visitor to pause briefly, disrupting their thought process and interrupts the reading of your otherwise carefully constructed page. More mistakes, and they begin to get irritated and maybe even leave the site. This is probably not the attitude of all visitors, but I’m sure it’s a percentage you wouldn’t like to lose. At the very least, if you’re looking to build your business and need all the visitors you can get, it’s an area in which you should put some extra effort, not only for your visitors, but also for the search engines, they’re not too happy with typos either.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur in Delhi or a webmaster in Paris offering an English language website, working with a Google translation just isn’t going to work if English is not your native language. Publishing without getting it checked by a native speaker is a risk; let’s face it, this is the first thing a visitor will read about you. Fortunately, there are many ways of getting your text checked. Although by no means perfect and complete, the spelling and grammar check built-in to your favourite application is a first step. Your favourite search engine will also find many online services offering free and paid checking and proofreading. The time spent, and perhaps a little money too, is an investment into your business you really can’t afford to pass by.
To get around the need for checking text and to save a few dollars, some site owners resort to plagiarism, they find a good site and just take the copy. Under no circumstances take the text from another website and put it on your own (unless, of course, you have permission from the site owner). First, you WILL be found out (there are many ways and means), and second, it WILL end up costing you a lot more than a few dollars. Word will quickly get around. There goes your credibility. You will end up blacklisted and your business will suffer, potentially catastrophically.
With a glut of free tools available, there are no excuses (other than local variation, through/thru, etc., and misuse – see below) for spelling mistakes. English grammar is a different subject altogether. Grammar is the basic structure of an expression in the English language, commonly subject-verb-object. It morphs into a mountain of, very often objective and emotive, rules, guidelines, laws and personal opinions. Grammarians themselves can be prone to angry arguments not too far removed from the field of combat. So what chance for the rest of us? Well, once again, your favourite application will have some kind of grammar check built-in, as well as online resources your favourite search engine will find, both free and paid.
There are a many words in the English language, which sound the same but have different spellings and meanings. Generally these won’t be picked up by spelling and grammar checking software. Here are a selection of common words that are the most misused and seem to cause the most confusion:
There = In that place, not here. “The house is over there.”
Their = Relating to “them” and possession. “This is their house.”
They’re = Contraction of they and are. “They’re (They are) closing the shop.”
Will the sentence still make sense if you replace:
- there with here?
- their with our?
- they’re with they are?
If yes, you’re using the right word.
Your = Possessive form of you. “Is this your house?”
You’re = Contraction of you and are. “You’re (you are) not in Kansas any more.”
Will the sentence still make sense if you replace:
- Your with my?
- You’re with you are?
If yes, you’re using the right word.
And finally the classic:
Its = Possessive form of pronoun it. “The jury reached its decision.”
It’s = Contraction of it is or it has. “It’s (it is) going to rain. It’s (it has) been raining.”
As an absolute minimum, use a spelling and grammar checking tool, check, check and double-check. At the end of the day, you can’t beat a reasonably educated, native English-language speaker to cast their eyes over your text. Do this before you put your text on-line and you will have removed another reason for a visitor to pass by.
I couldn’t really think of a better title that covered this area sufficiently. So by Dead Giveaway I mean things that give away the fact a site is not ready for the public, needs more effort, identifies it as a mass-produced clone site or has an owner that doesn’t care about the presentation of their business.
If the site offers several languages, does the content actually change to the right language and does it change all of the text. Why have a language selector if some of the page stays in English? How would you feel if the site you visited had chunks of text in French or Urdu after you had selected English?
Let’s be frank here, if you have 50 languages on your dating site you need to have 50 different translations, taking into account cultural differences, layout changes (German and Russian words and phrases can be much longer than English, Middle Eastern languages commonly right to left) and grammar differences. For example in English we use the personal pronoun “You”, there are two equivalents in German: Du and Sie, and in French: Tu and Vous. Which have you chosen and have you declined the nouns appropriately? Have you had the translation checked by a native speaker? Unless you really are catering for an international audience, stick with you own language, or perhaps a second or third common language, at most.
In addition to this, don’t forget, you will also need to translate your Terms and Conditions, Privacy, Help, FAQ’s, About, Contact pages, and so on.
If you are just starting and have limited budget, do the multi-lingual thing next year. Stay with the language you know for now.
Your sites static pages, for example, About, Terms and Conditions, Privacy, Contact, FAQ’s, and so on, are also an indicator of the seriousness an owner has for their site. “Under construction”, “Coming Soon”, and similar just don’t cut it. If they’re not complete, the site isn’t ready for the public. That’s it.
Last week, I checked a site that was submitted for inclusion in our Dating Directory, and all of the menu pages gave me a 404 error – Page not found. A 404 error is unacceptable on static pages. You do get them from time to time due to deleted profiles and so on, where the profile has been indexed by a search engine, but these should be discovered and fixed as soon as possible. Google Webmaster tool has a function to check for 404’s, use it.
Does the site actually have Terms and Conditions, Privacy and the other appropriate static pages. If yes, is there actually content, and does the content reflect the site in question. You would be surprised at the number of sites that have blank Terms and Conditions and privacy pages, or that have content, but obviously refer to another website or company (some plagiarism going on?).
There are little things that draw the eye sometimes. One of these is the favicon. This is the little icon that appears in the URL field of your browser. If you have a pre-built site, it comes with its own favicon. If you don’t change it, this default will be used. Probably 90% of websites we review have default icons. This is also an indicator of the level of interest an owner has in running a professional site. Getting a pre-built dating site is fine, but please, give it your own identity.
Also common with pre-built dating sites is the home/front/landing page main image. Fifty identical sites, slightly different colour here and there. Just no individuality. If you can’t afford to licence from an image warehouse, go out with a few friends and take some pictures, kissing, hugging, alone, together, you get the idea. Be different, be unique.
I hope this has given you some ideas in improving your own site. Content is king but attention to detail is the mark of someone who cares about what they’re doing. You’ll get more trust, more visitors, and your business will have a more solid, growing foundation if you take care of the little things.
TwoWayLove.com is a comprehensive dating directory to find dating sites, love, romance, relationships, singles and personals from around the world. Search for dating and related sites.
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Lisa also blogs for TwoWayLove.
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